Vol. 25 (2022): Cromohs
The Jewish ‘Life of Jesus’ in Early Modern Contexts: Case Studies

Marian Devotion and the Jewish Gospel (Toledot Yeshu) in Eighteenth Century Amsterdam

Evi Michels
University of Tuebingen
Thomas Coryat, Coryat’s Crudities: Reprinted from the Edition of 1611. To which are Now Added, His Letters from India, &c. and Extracts Relating to Him, from Various Authors [...] Together with His Orations, Character, Death, Etc. [...] (London: Printed for W. Cater, et. al., 1776), vol. III, n.p., ‘Coryat’s Letters from India’. Copy at The British Library, digitised by Google books.

Published 2023-01-31


  • Toledot Yeshu,
  • Mary,
  • Koimesis,
  • Parody,
  • Amsterdam


Polemical narratives on the life of Jesus of Nazareth were common among Jews since the Middle Ages. In the Enlightenment context, especially in the Netherlands, these narratives developed into an eminently popular text genre, with close ties to the performative arts. The authors of the Yiddish manuscripts discussed here thus inserted new narrative elements into the traditional story. In their retelling of he familiar story, they creatively included actualizing references to the daily experiences of their audience. Among these original elements, we find a retelling of  the assumption of Mary. Whereas this unexpected narrative element seems to reflect a medieval context, when popular stories about the Virgin Mary widely circulated in the Catholic Netherlands, it nevertheless served as an effective tool also in a Protestant context. to negotiate the boundaries between the Jewish and Christian communities, and define the conditions of their peaceful coexistence.